Silent protest at church

By East Lothian Newsroom

Thursday October 26, 2006

PROTESTERS have collected almost 1,000 signatures opposing a plan to install a mobile phone transmitter inside Haddington West Church.

Members of the newly-formed action group NO 2 O2 staged silent protests outside the church prior to the start of services on Sunday.

Mobile phone operator O2 hopes to install a ‘base station’ inside the church tower and a planning application is under consideration by East Lothian Council.

Church officials, however, have yet to make their final decision, irrespective of whether planning consent is granted.

One of the leading lights in the campaign to stop the base station from going ahead is Desiree Dunkinson of Victoria Road.

The mother of a 10-year-old child, she is concerned about the possibility of harmful radiation emitting from the base station.

She said she was encouraged by the support of those who had signed the petition – and the 30-strong protest on Sunday.

“Mobile phone mast emissions heighten the risk of leukaemia, especially childhood leukaemia,” claimed Mrs Dunkinson.

“Having seen two cousins go through that disease, I just would not like to see anybody else going through that process.

“I think you could lessen the chance by putting masts up a safe distance from people, especially kids”

She added: “There are many more health effects, but the leukaemia one is the one that grabs me personally the most.

“The thought that somebody else could go through that disease just because of an unsafe siting of a mobile phone mast is just not on.”

She stressed that she had nothing against the West Church – pointing out that it played a pivotal role in the community – but claimed that independent research had shown that people living within 300 metres of such a mast could “suffer serious health effects”.

Church officials issued a fresh statement this week, revealing that discussions on the O2 plan were to continue.

“The (congregational) board intends to continue listening to the views of members of the congregation and of the wider community in addition to those of national agencies charged with regulating and assessing the safety of mobile phone masts,” said a spokesman.

“The board has noted that there are more than 35,000 mobile phone masts in the UK, a number of them in church buildings, some of which are in our area, and that this number is projected to increase.

“Also that the General Trustees of the Church of Scotland have expressed themselves ‘sufficiently satisfied regarding the health issue to continue entering these applications’ (for congregations), but have given an assurance that ‘the matter will be kept constantly under review’.”

The Presbytery of Lothian, added the spokesman, had given its permission for the mast’s erection should the church decide to proceed, and he said that all negotiations with O2 would be handled by the Church of Scotland.

“Members of the board are aware that installation of the mast would not be groundbreaking in national or local terms, but are also aware that local circumstances and views require to be given consideration,” he added.

It is understood that, if the church agrees to the mast’s installation and planning procedures are negotiated by O2, it would be between nine months and a year before the mast was erected – and a further year before the church would receive any financial benefit to help maintain the building.

Cash from allowing O2 to install the transmitter would help alleviate the church’s serious dry rot problem.


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